"Your eyes, WOW...I mean, they look so healthy. I want my eyes to look like that. You just glow and you look so happy!"
After three plus months of traveling throughout Australia and New Zealand, I spent my final weekend in reflection and filled with gratitude at an ashram an hour outside Sydney. As I boarded the bus to take me to the ashram, I met a fellow ashram-goer (Liz) and she made the statement above. I laughed as she said it because just a couple years ago a doctor took one look at me as I walked into her office and said, "Well, I can tell just by looking at your eyes that things are not going well in your body. Let's figure that out and work on it." (I later found out she was right...massive food allergies, overall poor health, and unhappiness because of it!) How is it that the eyes can tell people so much?!
It's funny how things come around full circle. I mean, not just the eye thing, but others as well. Let me explain... That same girl that complimented the well being of the whites of my eyes ended up being in the exact program as me at the ashram. We signed up for a 48-hour program called Serve Give Love in which we helped around the ashram (regenerating the bush, working in the garden, helping in the kitchen) as well as had access to all the classes held during those two days. The first night at the ashram, I had a long, in-depth talk with Liz about relationships. I quickly realized that she was emotionally where I was two years ago after a horribly painful breakup. It was actually quite therapeutic to help Liz understand what she needed to do to get her confidence and happiness back up.
As I spoke to her, I realized two things:
1. The personal growth I've experienced in the past two years is almost unrecognizable. I am thankful for the hard times because they've made me appreciate my happy and healthy life now.
2. More shockingly, I haven't opened up myself to another relationship since then. Instead, I've used it as a crutch, often saying, "I'm just enjoying the single life!" or "I have some stuff to do before I get another boyfriend." Well, you know what? The kind of guy I end up with won't stand in the way of my goals and dreams. In fact, he'll encourage me to do more. So why am I making up excuses? Nope, not anymore.
The weekend involved quite a few things outside my comfort zone (including group chanting, a plethora of "oms," and a lack of actual downward dogs/mountain poses), but there were quite a few memorable moments in addition to the one above. My favorite moment of the weekend included a 4-year-old girl named Evie who was at the ashram with her 6-year-old brother, her tall, gorgeous blond Russian mother, and her long-haired, Texan father. In the garden, I was assigned to pick some of the vegetables for the kitchen to use for meals. As I picked the cucumbers off the vines, a very curious Evie came up to me. I asked her if she wanted to help and told her I needed someone to look for the cucumbers in all of the leaves so that I could pick them for all of us to eat. Evie caught on quickly and before I knew it we had 2 full buckets picked. She then proceeded to pick up a few of them, cradle them to her chest, and tell me, "I'm giving them big hugs so that when people eat them later they'll feel loved, too."
Evie then spent the rest of the morning following me around, stopping occasionally to say, "Hug!" (which meant I had to give her a hug at that very moment). I figured she was just the person I needed to help pass on happiness to others, so I taught Evie the word "contagious" and told her to see how many people she could make smile just by smiling herself. She was up for the challenge. She scoured the area and every so often I'd hear her exclaim, "Got one! Got one!"
From my weekend at the ashram, I've adopted a handful of things to bring back home:
-Be openminded. Just because something isn't your cup of tea doesn't mean it isn't someone else's, which leads me to...
-Life is about giving...and in return, you'll receive.
-Live simply, both in what you eat, what you do, and what you buy.
Although I don't feel the need to go to an ashram again, I'm glad I went. Doing things outside your comfort zone helps you grow as well as understand others. I know that organized groups and religion may not be my thing, but if it provides inner peace and happiness to others, then who am I to judge? Everyone gets something different from experiences like the one I had this weekend. People from all walks of life in various life stages take something unique out of every experience. At the end of the day, I guess that's what life is all about...compiling what you've learned from multiple experiences and calling it your own. You get what you want out of life.